Post Author: Bill Pratt
On atheism, there is no guarantee that evil will ever be punished or that good will ever be rewarded. Philosopher William Lane Craig quotes Richard Wurmbrand’s comments on the state torturers in Soviet prisons who understood this all too well:
The cruelty of atheism is hard to believe when man has no faith in the reward of good or the punishment of evil. There is no reason to be human. There is no restraint from the depths of evil which is in man. The Communist torturers often said, ‘There is no God, no hereafter, no punishment for evil. We can do what we wish.’ I have heard one torturer even say, ‘I thank God, in whom I don’t believe, that I have lived to this hour when I can express all the evil in my heart.’ He expressed it in unbelievable brutality and torture inflected on prisoners.
Since death is the end, there is no reason to not live a purely self-centered life focused on fulfilling your desires, whatever they may be. Atheist philosopher Kai Nielsen laments:
We have not been able to show that reason requires the moral point of view, or that all really rational persons should not be individual egoists or classical amoralists. Reason doesn’t decide here. The picture I have painted for you is not a pleasant one. Reflection on it depresses me . . . . Pure practical reason, even with a good knowledge of the facts, will not take you to morality.
Craig answers the atheist who might say that we should be moral because it is in our self-interest:
Somebody might say that it is in our best self-interest to adopt a moral life-style. But clearly, that is not always true: we all know situations in which self-interest runs smack in the face of morality. Moreover, if one is sufficiently powerful, like a Ferdinand Marcos or a Papa Doc Duvalier or even a Donald Trump, then one can pretty much ignore the dictates of conscience and safely live in self-indulgence.
On atheism, sacrificing for others seems utterly irrational. Craig concludes, “Acts of self-sacrifice become particularly inept on a naturalistic world view. Why should you sacrifice your self-interest and especially your life for the sake of someone else? There can be no good reason for adopting such a self-negating course of action on the naturalistic world view.”
Why not be self-indulgent and live for yourself? Under atheism, there is no rational answer to that question. All you can appeal to is your moral emotions and instincts, which means the moral life nowhere intersects with reason. Just do it if you feel like it. Otherwise, don’t.